Time Out of Joint

The PKD series continues.

Raw Feed (1989): Time Out of Joint, Philip K. Dick, 1959.Time Out of Joint 

A very fun and enjoyable book.

I guessed, about half way through, (and given slight clues of book blurbs and Dick’s thematic preoccupations) that Ralph Grumm was being used as a weapons targeting system in a war. I did not guess the mechanism of control (and would have liked more details on that besides just “brainwashing” and mysterious gases), why Grumm had to be insane, or the nature of the war (I thought, given my limited experience, that the economic and philosophic origins of the war between Luna and Earth original and interesting).

The characterization was, as always, excellent.

One of the sad moments of the book was when the main characters found out they really had no relationship with each other. During the course of the novel you really cared for them as a family and as individuals.

I liked the look, however warped, of that alien world of the fifties with its social consciousness, conformity, and Freudian jargon. Continue reading

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The Golden Man

The PKD series continues.

Raw Feed (1989): The Golden Man, ed. Philip K. Dick, 1980.the golden man

“Foreword”, Mark Hurst — Standard collection intro on why book was done and its history.

Introduction” — Brief tour of the life of Philip K. Dick, a subject as fascinating as any of his novels. We hear of Dick’s anger and love of sf and his friends in it (particularly Norman Spinrad and Thomas E. Disch but also Roger Zelazny and Robert Heinlein — who loaned Dick money and who, though Dick was almost completely opposite politically to him, Dick loved. His adoration in France, his fascinating life on the streets, his many loves of women and music, is all dealt with. It reminds me how much, more than any other author, I wish I would have met Dick while he was alive.

The Golden Man” — I’m sure too much prior knowledge of this story ruined my enjoyment of it. The story is structured to make one sympathetic towards the Golden Man (Dick comes up with an interesting assortment of mutants) and, as Dick points out in his story notes, this was the Golden Age of the sympathetic mutant in John W. Campbell’s Astounding and A. E. van Vogt’s Slan. At the end though, we are faced, like the androids in Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, with beings that seem outwardly human but are not. The pre-vision talent of the Golden Man was interesting, and Dick tried to go into some of its implications. The idea of a mutant’s sexual attractiveness was original and valid. The main strong point of the story is the turning of reader’s sympathy from the Golden Man to his hunters. Unfortunately, I spoiled my surprise. Continue reading

Eye in the Sky

The Philip K. Dick series continues.

Raw Feed (1989): Eye in the Sky, Philip K. Dick, 1957.Eye in the Sky 

Like all Philip K. Dick novels, this one was weird, humorous, and sometimes horrifying.

The premise — a Bevatron accident releasing enough energy for individual neurotic world views to be materially realized — is absurd and quite compelling and fascinating.

As usual in Dick’s works, there is much black humor here and just plain humor: horses with trousers, a magical vending machine, scientists consulting prayer wheels.

And, as usual, the dialogue is real, particularly the sarcasm of Jack Hamilton and Bill Laws.

The characters are well-done though definitely less well-developed than in latter novels — this was the fourth novel Dick published. The relationship between Marsha and Jack Hamilton is well-drawn. We really care that their marriage may be hurt by Charles McFeyffe’s accusation of Marsha’s communism.

Dick’s concern, as usual, is for the individual and here, as in Dr. Bloodmoney, is an early black character in sf — not, as Dick said in an interview, a saint or martyr but a real, if put upon, character with flaws, neuroses, and a need for security. Continue reading

Stealing Other People’s Homework: “Philip K. Dick and Our Predicament”

PKD

Prowling around on the Web of a Million Lies today, I found this 2013 piece by J. R. Dunn. Yes, it seems to be this J. R. Dunn, a science fiction writer as well as a political commentator. I believe we had a very brief email exchange years ago.

 

 

The Penultimate Truth

I’ve read a lot of Philip K. Dick. That includes most of his science fiction except the VALIS books.

However, I didn’t write any notes on most of that reading.

Still, since Dick seems to interest several readers, I’ll put up what reviews I have while I work on new posts — some of which have been written, but they’ll be put up as part of a long series.

Raw Feed (1989): The Penultimate Truth, Philip K. Dick, 1964.Penultimate Truth

The influence of A. E. van Vogt on Dick’s plotting is quite obvious here. Virtually every chapter wrings a new wrinkle on the plot. However, the plot of this novel is its weakest point.

Not only do we never have the origin of David Lantano’s time oscillating explained, but we only get a vague reference to him taking a few “starring roles” in history prior to the war. Why didn’t he make alteration in events so the war would be avoided if he was so powerful? For that matter why didn’t he exhibit his allegedly humanitarian side then? Why did he wait 15 years to make his move?

Thematically the book never really comes to making a statement.

At one point, when explaining the rationale for keeping the general populace underground, it is said it will spur their leaders on to war if they know the U.S.S.R. is relatively untouched (and did spur the military to war 15 years ago).

Yet, Dick celebrates, in Nicholas St. James especially, the liberation (as he always does) of the deceived and victimized population. Continue reading

Blade Runner: Replicant Night

Until yesterday, I was unaware that Jeter wrote a third novel, Blade Runner 4: Eye and Talon, in this series.

However, given my thoughts on this one and that even a paperback copy of it costs over $70, I won’t be reading it anytime soon.

Incidentally, the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s Jeter entry says the series makes “use of some original Philip K. Dick material”. I presume that means unpublished material that Jeter saw.

Raw Feed (1999): Blade Runner: Replicant Night, K. W. Jeter, 1996.Replicant Night

While I appreciated that parts of this book were a homage to Philip K. Dick, I didn’t like this book.

I found large parts of it tedious and other parts implausible.

The Martian setting, arid, desolate, and producing people who eventually almost lapse into total catatonia and a new generation of children who seem alien seemed to be inspired – at least as I remember it, by Dick’s Martian Time-Slip.

The talking briefcase – a very Dick touch – I liked with its artificial copy of Roy Baty’s consciousness. I also liked the very Dick-like stage setting of Deckard’s life undergoing a real and fake reprise – and change – in the orbital movie studio where a film recreating his android hunt is being made.

However, the middle part was frequently tedious. Continue reading

Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human

K. W. Jeter was one of the young, aspiring writers, along with Tim Powers and James Blaylock, who hung around Philip K. Dick in his last years.

Amongst other things Dick would do — and Powers definitely says Dick was not, per popular legend, “crazy” — is spin late night conspiracy theories out which would keep the young men in a state of paranoia for a couple of days until Dick would reveal the joke.

Jeter is also the man who jocularly invented the term “steampunk” for the sort of work he, Powers, and Blaylock did early in their careers.

Raw Feed (1999): Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human, K. W. Jeter, 1995.Blade Runner 2

This is a peculiar book, unique, as far as I know, in its intentions and starting premises.

There are several media tie-in books that use characters from tv shows and movies. There are also some books that are sequels to other authors’ works. This novel, though, combines both. To further complicate matters, there are two versions of the film Blade Runner. [My box set of Blade Runner films actually has five versions.] Jeter seems to use the original version of the film as the beginning point of his plot.

Jeter drags out all the usual Philip K. Dick elements: conspiracies (I think he outdoes Dick in this regard – more on the par of A. E. van Vogt who inspired Dick) and the tenuous nature of reality and some specific references to the universe created in Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, specifically Deckard’s increasing disgust with killing androids and the nature of humanity and the constantly blurring lines between human and android and the sometimes questionable desire to make a distinction.

The plot is satisfyingly engaging though not without problems. Continue reading

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I doubt the Web of a Million Lies needs yet more material on Philip K. Dick, so, for now, I won’t put up any more Dick related reviews (and I have a lot of them).

Since a Blade Runner sequel recently came out, I thought I’d look at Dick’s novel and, in future postings, K. W. Jeter’s sequels.

Raw Feed (1999): Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick, 1968.

This is either the second or third time I’ve read this book.

The first time was right before Blade Runner was released, and I was entranced by the plot and action.

This time I noticed more.

I appreciated, as I almost always do, the black humor and skillful characterization and dialogue. I was still affected by the scene where Isidore tries to repair an ailing cat he mistakes for an android, and where Roy Baty tortures a spider. Baty’s casual cruelty was more noticeable on re-reading and, the first time, I missed his mystical preoccupations.

This time around more of a sense of desperation, loneliness, and despair came through.

Deckard just wants (like Isidore) to make a connection with something. When his wife (their fights over the mood organ settings are hilarious) is unavailable, he seeks sex and companionship with android Rachael. Isidore knows Pris is an android but doesn’t care.  She is close enough to human to do. Continue reading

Sandkings

When I was much younger I was rather taken with the short fiction of George R. R. Martin. One story, “Nightflyers”, even got made into a movie of the same name. An obscure movie.

However, I wrote no notes on those so this is the only book of Martin’s short fiction I’ve written about.

I have not read anything in the Game of Thrones series nor watched the series. And I probably won’t ever do either.

Raw Feed (1995): Sandkings, George R. R. Martin, 1981.Sandkings

The Way of Cross and Dragon” — An interesting story with a distinctly mediaeval flavor.  This is part of Martin’s loosely connected Commonwealth (I think that’s the name [Martin’s ISFDB.org calls it the Thousand World series] series and features an Inquisitor of the Order of the Knights of Jesus Christ dispatched to put an end to a particularly intriguing heresy. That heresy is the best and most inventive part of the story and called the Order of Saint Judas Iscariot. The heresy is based on a lively mishmash and confusion of myth and history (with the cover of divine curses having altered memories). Judas starts out as an ambitious youth and child prostitute and then becomes a necromancer, sole tamer of dragons, and lord of Babylon. Then he moves to mutilator of Christ and, via Repentance, an apostle. After the crucifixion, he angrily kills Peter and is rebuked by Christ upon Peter’s resurrection. Judas has his gifts of tongues and healing removed and is told by Christ he will forever be remembered as the Betrayer. Eventually, after living more than a 1,000 years, he finds favor with Christ again. He consents to have Judas’ true history remembered by a few. As entertaining as this heresy is, it’s just a frame to hang a philosophical tale on about the attraction beautiful lies have be they political ideologies or religions. Only a few can stare at the true universe which has no afterlife, no Creator, no purpose for human life, and no chance for the human race to leave a permanent memorial. (Martin once described his stories as being search-and-destroy missions against romance.) One of those few is the inventor of the heresy who cheerfully admits he made the whole thing up (including forging supporting historical documents and altering others). He belongs to a conspiracy of Liars, a very long-lived group who takes it upon themselves to invent beautiful lies (including perhaps Christianity) for those who can not gaze upon the truth of the universe like they can.

Bitterblooms” — A story exhibiting Martin’s lyrical, fantasy flavored prose. Essentially this is a story of a woman abducted – at least it seemed to me – by a stranded space traveler and forced into a love affair (a lesbian one) but this is very matter-of-fact and not salaciously played up. She escapes but develops a permanent taste for travel and, in her dying moments, thinks fondly of her time on the spaceship. This is part of Martin’s loose Avalon series. Continue reading

Stealing Other People’s Homework: “Literature’s Arctic Obsession”

In my part of the world, the temperature has gone below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

And that means it’s time to do some polar reading.

This year, I’ll probably read Jules Verne’s The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, and, maybe, Ernest Shackleton’s South.

However, given how far behind I am in reviews, it will be awhile before I talk about them.

In the meantime, you get this from Kathryn Schulz. There’s a lot of famous writers who mentioned the poles in their work: the Brontes, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Shelley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Dickens.

Stealing Other People’s Homework: “Literature’s Arctic Obsession“, Kathryn Schulz.Arctic Obsession